Portion Control - Real Serving Sizes

Portion CONTROL. 

We hear a lot about this topic in the health arena – but do we translate the information out there into how much we eat every day? 

Despite the vast amount of knowledge available to us on portion sizes and types, many of us are not following these very simple instructions in our diets. By applying this one change to our family nutritional habits, we would see a quick and noticeable difference in our weight and health! 

Here is some valuable information to help you decipher how much food you should (or shouldn’t!) be eating every day.

According to the USDA, here is a general idea of portion sizes in each area of food groups:

Breads, pasta, cereal, cooked grains

  • 1 slice of bread (looks like a CD case)

  • 1/2 a bagel (the size of a hockey puck)

  • 1 cup cereal (looks like two hands cupped together)

  • 1/2 cup cooked grain or pasta (one cupped palm)

Fruits

  • 1 piece of fresh fruit (the size of a tennis ball)

  • 1/2 cup cut up fruit, raw, cooked, frozen, or canned (looks like 7 cotton balls)

  • 1/4 cup dried fruit (1/2 cupped handful)

  • 3/4 cup 100% fruit juice (5 ounces or so)

Veggies

  • 1/2 cup cut up veggie, raw, cooked, frozen, or canned (looks like the bulb part of a light bulb)

  • 1/2 cup cooked, canned or frozen legumes

  • 1 cup leafy greens (2 handfuls)

  • 3/4 cup 100% vegetable juice (5 ounces or so)

Meat, chicken, or fish

  • 3-4 ounces (looks like a deck of cards or a checkbook)

  • 1 egg

Dairy

  • 1 oz of cheese (looks like 2, 9-volt batteries)

  • 1/2 cup ice cream, cottage cheese or pudding (one rounded scoop)

  • 1 cup milk or yogurt

Nuts 

  • 1/3 cup (a small handful)

  • 1 tbsp nut butter (size of both your thumbs)

Healthy Side Salads - Fresh Summer Fare

Easy and light summer sides and salads are the way to stay cool and healthy this summer.  Here are three for you to whip up for your family - add these healthy sides into your dinner menu often as a delicious way to get those crunchy vegetables into your family's diet!  When making these salads, think easy - use already grated carrots, bagged real bacon pieces, etc.  It doesn't take but 5 minutes to throw these sides together.

SWEET SUGAR-LESS CARROT SALAD

Take 1 1/2 cups grated carrots, 1/4 cup craisins, 1/2 cup diced pineapple, and 1/4 cup crushed walnuts to make this beauty!  Then keep it sugar-free (the ingredients give it enough sweet crunch!) by stirring 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk with 1/4 cup mayo (or veganaise) and 1 teaspoon (packet) of Truvia.  Yummy sweetness, no added sugar!

BACON BROCCOLI SALAD

Mix together 2 cups diced broccoli florets, 1/4 craisins, 1/4 cup real bacon pieces, 1/4 cup diced sweet onion, and 1/4 cup sliced almonds.  Take 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk, 1/4 cup mayo or veganaise, 1 squeezed lemon, and 1 tablespoon honey and stir together to make this lemony sweet sauce.  Stir it into the salad mixture.  Pleasing to the tastebuds, and body!

CUCUMBER & AVOCADO SALAD

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To make this easy side, take 1 1/2 cups cucumber slices (peel the cucumber first), 1/4 cup diced green onion, 1/2 cup diced avocado, and stir together.  For marinade, mix 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp canola oil, 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (these you can buy at the store in a seasoning bottle already toasted!) together and stir into salad.  Refrigerate for at least an hour to give the salad better flavor!

These 3 salads are perfect paired with fish, chicken or even the occasional beef entree.  Enjoy these salads often, as they are easy and so good for you!

Healthy Eating Habits - Tips for Success

 Eating healthy can be beautiful!

Eating healthy can be beautiful!

Eating healthy for a lifetime is a goal that should take importance over any dieting or weight loss goal. However, often we go on a diet, lose the weight, and then return to our former ways of eating…which is one of the ways we gain the weight back. Most experts agree that in order to break this “never-ending” cycle is to actually change the way you eat by changing your habits. So, how do you do this? How in the world will you be able to change your eating habits in a way that will keep you eating healthy forever?

It can be done!  Eating healthier doesn't have to mean eating boring or bland foods, either.  (See our Healthy Recipes page for full-color pics/recipes on how delicious healthy food is!)  Eating healthy can, and should be filling and enjoyable! You have to change up your daily routine in order to create a habit, but once you get the habit started, it is harder to break. So, to help you establish better healthy-eating habits, below are a few tips:

Adjust the Grocery List – Many of us complain about how easy it is to eat junk food, but we’re the ones that bring the food home from the grocery store! So, adjust your grocery list so that it primarily has just healthy foods on it. Below are a few suggestions:

List foods in categories on your list. You want your “Produce” section to be at the top because it should have the most food listed under it. To make shopping easier, try to list categories in the order you come across them at the supermarket. Scrutinize each category on your list and skip the ones that aren’t very healthy (such as chips, pop and candy).

 Buy only healthy items at the store!

Buy only healthy items at the store!

Plan Meals in Advance – Grocery shopping will go much quicker if you plan your meals out for the week in advance. This is especially true if you’re trying to eat healthier meals. If you go to the grocery store without a plan for the meals you’ll be fixing next week, you’re more likely to end up with unhealthy “convenience” foods. So, save yourself time, money, and extra calories by planning your family’s meals in advance.

Visit Restaurants Less Often – Many of us have a tendency to eat out at restaurants at least 4 or more times a week. Why? For the majority of people, it’s because it’s easier to eat out than to prepare something at home. However, eating out not only costs you more money, but it also costs you a lot of unwanted calories and unhealthy fat and sugars, too. Try to limit your eating out to 1-2 times a week.

If you look at the restaurant’s menu online before you go, you’ll be able to see the nutritional value for each meal. If you don’t get a chance to look before you go, you can always ask the waiter/waitress for it once you're there. This information will help you make healthier food choices when eating out.

Hopefully these few tips have helped equip you in your quest to eat healthier, so don't give up!  Small steps in the right direction are vital to your family's success in eating healthier for a brighter future!  Come visit our community page on Facebook, and let us know what you've started doing to eat healthier!

Spicing Up the Dinner Table

 Spices have flavor and health benefits!

Spices have flavor and health benefits!

Spices are fascinating, tasty additions to the family diet – yet they are still elusive to so many families.  They tend to be intimidating (especially the pepper family), and someone who hasn’t learned to cook formally may not have any practical knowledge of how to use spices appropriately.  So, this post is meant to be a short and easy crash course in the spice world!  Here are some common flavorings, and the ways they can be used to “spice up” your family meals:

  • Bay leaves – This slightly bitter yet aromatic herb  contains many strong oils and is widely used in soups, stews, pot roasts, as well as with most meats.  Bay leaf has been used medicinally over the years to treat high blood sugar, migraine headaches, bacterial infections, and ulcers.  It is a strong herb, and shouldn’t be overused, since its qualities are potent.
  • Basil – Aromatic, but not too strong, basil is a gentle, delicious addition to many dishes such as vegetable medleys, soups, pastas, and meats.  Easy to grow anywhere, this herb is commonly found all over, and is used in pestos and sauces.  Like many of its herb cousins, basil is a digestive aid, so it adds more than just sweet flavor to food.

The spices listed are just a few of the most commonly used, but provides a great starting point.  Adding more than just flavor, these herbs and spices will assist digestion and enrich bodily functions.  They’ll give great benefits to the dinner plate, with very little effort and cost!

Grace, Gratitude, & Thanksgiving Day

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There will be sweet potato pie, crispy green beans served with almond slivers and a pat of butter, and I’ll splurge on that delicious roasted brown sugar ham.  Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday of the year, and this year is no exception.  As I prepare for a quiet time at home with my family, and a simple dinner of delicious goodies, I am beginning to get a little emotional.  You see, this overwhelming gratitude has settled in my heart these last few days leading up to Thanksgiving Day.  It’s a gratitude for the seemingly “small” blessings in my life that have somehow become so much bigger over the last few years. The message my Pastor preached this past Sunday was on “Gratitude and Grace,” and he talked about how the two are so tightly connected, that you almost can’t have one without the other.  He went on to explain that both are a choice, you have to choose to operate in them.  So true, so very, very true!

Just five years ago, I wasn’t in the celebrating mood on Thanksgiving Day.  I was alone in my rental house, eating pizza and wings takeout after a grueling 8 hour shift on my feet at the restaurant/bar where I worked.  It was one week before the divorce from my husband of ten years became final in court, and I was depressed.  My family was torn apart, as my ex-husband and I were sharing our three young children between us, amicably, but sorrowfully.

Just one year after that, Thanksgiving Day 2007, I was  eating turkey and pie with my restored family from that same divorce (my husband Juan) and those same beautiful kids.  How is this possible?  Only with the invitation and marriage of gratitude and grace…..and for me, at least, these are only possible through my relationship with God.

So this year, I am grateful, again, for the life I’ve been given.  I’m so grateful to God for the man in my life who truly loves me as himself.   I’m grateful that I get to mother, chauffer, cook for, nurture, and guide the four greatest kids a mom could ask for.  I’m grateful for health and wholeness, that we can choose it, and live it.  I’m grateful for every beautiful person God has divinely placed in my path, whether friend, colleague, or client!  I’m grateful that I get to serve others in my dream career, as a coach.  There are so many blessings in my life to be grateful for, that this list could get exhaustive!

So while I am making preparations for a fabulous holiday celebration with those I love most, I will continue to make my “gratitude list.”  As I mull over the list, I’ll remember that grace had, and has, everything to do with my story becoming the story that it is today.

So while I am making preparations for a fabulous holiday celebration with those I love most, I will continue to make my “gratitude list.”  As I mull over the list, I’ll remember that grace had, and has, everything to do with my story becoming the story that it is today.

Healthy Vegetarian Red Pepper Stir Fry

Who says you can't get dinner from pan to mouth in 30 minutes?  This healthy, fresh dish proves that vegetarian can be fun - and quick!  It's a light, meatless meal that won’t break the bank and still turn on your taste buds! Fun tofu tip: When cooking it, use a plastic baking spatula to handle and turn the cubes since it is gentle, and won’t break up the tofu into pieces.

Healthy Vegetarian Red Pepper Stir Fry Recipe

How To Make It:

Ingredients:

•    1 lb. extra firm tofu
•    1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tsp reserved
•    1 tbsp minced garlic
•    1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
•    1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
•    1 cup diced green onions, ¼ cup reserved
•    2 tbsp rice vinegar
•    1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
•    sea salt, fresh ground black pepper

Garnish

•    1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
•    1 cup alfalfa or spicy sprouts

Instructions:

1.    Place drained tofu on several paper towels; let stand for 10 minutes. Then cut it into 1 inch cubes.

2.    Heat 2 tsp sesame oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic, ginger, and bell pepper to pan; sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cups diced green onions, vinegar, and soy sauce, cook for 30 seconds. Remove mixture from pan and wipe pan clean.

3.    Place pan over medium-high heat, and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle tofu with salt and pepper, then place it gently in the pan. Cook tofu for 8 minutes or until golden, turning midway with rubber spatula to brown it on all sides. Return bell pepper mixture to the pan, and cook with the tofu one more minute.

Serve mixture over a bed of brown rice, and drizzle remaining sesame oil over it. Then top with remaining green onions, sprouts, and sesame seed garnish.  Delish!

This dish is loaded with filling fiber and lean protein, but is still very low in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.  Enjoy this dish with your family, and put a whole new meaning to meatless night!

Healthy Cereal Cookies

Ever get a sweet tooth, and just need a little bite to satisfy the craving?  These little treasures can fulfill that need, and put health in your body at the same time!  Full of fiber, low on sugar - win-win for you and your family! These cookies are actually more like a homemade granola bar, but my kids still think they are eating dessert! I make a couple batches at a time, and freeze them in little baggies for quick lunch and snack grabbing. This way, we keep portion size in check, yet provide a healthy option to other empty calorie snacks!

Those “100 calorie” snacks bags at the store don’t hold a candle to the 100-calorie-per-cookie goodness of these babies! These cookies actually contain natural sources of nutritious fiber, very little sugar, and NO fillers or preservatives! The benefits of the flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, oats, and bran come together to make a nutritious treat!

Healthy Cereal Cookies 

How To Make It:

Ingredients:

•    1 cup whole wheat flour
•    1/2 cup flaxseed, milled
•    1 tsp baking powder
•    1 tsp baking soda
•    1 tsp ground cinnamon
•    3/4 cup butter, softened (1 ½ sticks)
•    1/2 cup white sugar
•    1/2 cup brown sugar
•    2 eggs
•    1 tsp vanilla
•    2 cups wheat cereal flakes (bran)
•    2 cups rolled oats
•    3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
•    1/2 cup craisins
•    1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

Instructions:

 

1.    Heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the flour, flaxseed, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl, set aside.

2.    In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. (For chewier cookies, add in an extra 2 Tbsp butter!) Add sugars and beat for about 2 minutes more, or until combined. Add eggs and vanilla in and mix until combined. On low speed, add in the flour mixture a little at a time, until the entire mixture is combined. Then stir in the bran flakes, oats, nuts, and fruit.

3.    Drop a rounded teaspoonful onto cookie sheets, and bake for about 11-13 minutes, or until golden around edges and set. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack. Enjoy these cookies in moderation, as they are natural “system regulators!

For the *Peanut Butter/Chocolate Chip version,* just switch out 1/2 cup of the butter for peanut butter, leave out the walnuts and craisins, and add in 1/2 cup MINI chocolate chips instead....yummy!

Let me know what you think of this healthy goodie in the comments below, or join the discussion in our community!

Healthy Whole Wheat & Buttermilk Pancakes

On my quest to begin finding healthier, more wholesome breakfast options, I came across this winner, and now my kids won't let me go long without making these!  They are great if you make a double batch, and stick a few away in a baggie in the freezer for quick school mornings.  They re-heat easily in under a minute in the microwave, and my kids swear they taste just as good as the day I made them. This recipe is originally from Ellie Krieger’s Cookbook, “The Food You Crave,” but I deliciously supercharged it with flaxseed!  It is one of my absolute favorites, because it’s not obvious that it’s so darn healthy!  The whole wheat flour and flaxseed are wonderful sources of fiber and whole grains, but the cakes are still fluffy thanks to the buttermilk and tiny amount of plain flour!

Healthy Whole Wheat & Buttermilk Pancakes Recipe

How To Make It:

Ingredients:

•    3/4 cup whole wheat flour
•    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
•    1/4 cup ground flaxseed
•    1 1/2 tsp baking powder
•    1/2 tsp baking soda
•    1/4 tsp salt
•    2 large eggs
•    1 cup lowfat buttermilk
•    3/4 cup nonfat (or soy, almond, or rice) milk
•    1 tbsp honey
•    1/4 tsp vanilla extract
•    Cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then set aside.  In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs buttermilk, milk, honey, and vanilla.
  2. Place a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat, and spray the cooking spray lightly on the surface.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones, only long enough to mix them together.  Batter may be slightly lumpy.  
  3. Ladle the batter into the pan in small amounts, and wait for the cakes to form bubbles on top before flipping them.  After about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown, remove the cakes from the griddle and serve.

 I keep it interesting for the kids by adding a tiny amount of mini chocolate chips or blueberries to the batter as the cakes cook up!  The kids add protein by dressing the pancakes up with a tablespoon of peanut butter.  Then they top them off with just a dollop of low-sugar syrup or a drizzle of pure maple syrup!  Yummy, healthy, goodness for breakfast!  (Pictured is the pancakes with a homemade strawberry sauce and a shake of confectioner's sugar over them.)

Tell me what you think of these after you've made them...I can't wait to hear from you on my Facebook page, Coach Bess!

Easy Asian Chicken Slaw Dinner

Always on the lookout for fast and healthy ways to use store-bought roasted chicken, I was so excited to find this recipe in a magazine recently!  This easy, affordable chicken dinner idea is delicious and filling.  Here is the recipe:

Easy Asian Chicken Slaw Dinner Recipe

How To Make This:

Ingredients:

•    2 cups shredded roasted chicken
•    1 package coleslaw mix
•    1/3 cup peanuts, chopped
•    1 ramen package, crushed into small pieces
•    2-4 green onions, diced
•    1/2 cup light Asian toasted sesame dressing, mixed with 1 Tbsp peanut butter

Instructions:

1.    Mix all ingredients together, serve and smile - dinner is ready!

Your family will think you've been slaving over dinner for much longer than the 5 minutes it takes to throw this dish together!  The leftovers are fabulous the next day as a work lunch - go ahead, make 'em jealous!  (Then share the recipe...)

Do you have a favorite slaw-style dinner recipe you'd like to share?  Maybe you want to brag on your version of this dish!  Either way, feel free to comment below, or visit our community and comment there!